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SASOP - Position statement on cannabis

JULY 2015

SADAG NEWSLETTER- Mental health awareness month



Neurobiology of ADHD
Schizo affective Disorder
Sexual side effects of psychotropic drugs
Personalised treatment of major depression
Alcohol and suicidal risk
Hippocampal neurogenesis
Biomarkers in Bipolar
Adult neurogenesis in mood and anxiety disorders
Neuro imaging
New treatment options insleep disorder



Dr. Cilliers attended the South African Society of Psychiatrists Conference in Durban. 

NEWSFLASH: a half an hour of exercise, enough to make you so out of breath that you cannot complete a sentence is as effective as a SSRI antidepressant.

The study followed excellent methodology. The exercise must be both aerobic exercise and some résistance exercise.
He gave a lecture at Cape Town MediClinic about Bipolar Mood Disorder in Woman.  Medical Professionals from different disciplines attended the breakfast meeting.

3-7 MAY 2014

new york
Image Credit: www.libertyharborrv.com

  • This is the biggest psychiatric conference in the world, an exciting event to attend.
  • Separate from the conference, I attended a Master Course in the Treatment of Bipolar Mood Disorder. 
    It lasted a full day. Specifically interestingly were the course parts around women, perinatal periods and children.
  • New advances in the treatment of resistant depression.
  • A new antidepressant coming to S.A. soon.
  • Neuro imaging being used as predictors for psychotherapy outcomes.
  • Social phobia: new treatment advances.
  • Advances in neuro imaging.
  • Using opto-genetics in the future in mood disorders.
  • Networking with my colleagues was invaluable.
  • ADHD



Like always, this largest applied Neuroscience meeting in Europe (7000 participants) is exciting and stimulating.  The one highlight was a presentation by a key player of the 1 billion Euro Human Brain Project.  A bold computational model of the human brain stands to revolutionise our understanding of the treatment of the worlds most complex organ through high tech development through incredible increases in computing power, bolstered by internet and biological developments and imaging modalities.
Epigenetics, (genetic changes in the brain before and after birth) will also change the whole future of psychiatry.
Deep brain stimulation for refractory depression and Parkinson’s is already more commonly used and safe and may soon be used routinely and successfully.  The pharmacological industry is pulling back on brain research.
All very exciting and hopeful ...


Dr Cilliers presented a paper on psychopathology genetics and ethics.  The summary was published in the SA Journal of Psychiatry. 

Dr Cilliers was one
of the founder members to initiate a finishing school for newly qualified psychiatrists.  This took place in Johannesburg.  A system of national mentorship is envisaged.  Young psychiatrists will be assisted by senior established psychiatrists through a process of training, workshops and mentoring to assist them to manage the complexity of private psychiatric practices.

This conference was primarily dedicated to the newest developments and classification (DSMV) and treatments of Bipolar Mood disorder.  This common disorder, confirmed by the gene project, is caused by genetic factors in 80 to 90% of cases.  New mood stabilisers were discussed, one to be launched in S.A. in 2013.  Unfortunately the launch was withdrawn when the rand fell against the euro.


ECNP 2012 (Conference for the European College of Neuro-Psycho-Pharmacology) Vienna, Austria.

I try to attend this European conference annually.  The most important news from the last few European conferences (Barcelona, Istanbul and other) is the concept of epigenetics, I always assumed that we are born with a find set of genetics, like blue eyes, intelligence, certain talents, etc.  Conclusive animal studies, including on primates (monkeys) proved that different perinatal nurturing changed the size of the hippocampus, serotonin and adrenalin neuron density in the young offspring. During this conference new developments in depression, anxiety and ADHD and epigenetics were addressed.


  • Neurogenesis, (that is new brain regeneration), is possible in patients that achieve remission, mainly in anxiety and mood disorders.  It only takes place if the patient has achieved a state of remission.  Exercise still plays an important role in neurogenesis.
  • The cost of research and development of a new molecule in neuroscience is 2 billion euro’s.
  • The new anti depressant agomelatine is the first antidepressant molecule approved in Europe.  I have been watching the history of the development of this molecule years before it was registered in South Africa in 2011 after approval in Europe in 2010.  The research and evidence is slowly gaining more mature validity as an important additional drug to use after the SSRI’s and SNRI’S.  It seems to play a role in the less anxious depressed patient that complains of emotional blunting or sexual side effects on the serotonergic antidepressants.
  • The cost of psychiatric disorders to the GDP of the USA is 1.2 trillion US dollars.  Governments, including South Africa, can not ignore these statistics.  It leaves a severe drain on the productivity of any country.  Eventually politicians, health managers, mental health practitioners and eventually all people will have to accept a lot of challenges.
  • The risks and benefits of early intervention in anxiety disorders were scientifically discussed from a multidisciplinary perspective.  Untreated childhood anxiety disorder led to tremendous long-term trans generational problems and simple interventions reduced suffering  and const.  Politicians eventually will have to give attention to this convincing data.
  • The Future?
  • DSMV (To be published in 2013)
  • Genomics
  • Better diagnosis
  • More scientific and accurate epidemiological data.

Dr Cilliers attended the national SASOP conference at the Cradle of Mankind in the winter of 2012.  World leaders of psychiatry spoke about evolution, genetics, culture, ethics, and new advances in psychiatry e.g. the use of Skype in psychiatry.


Dr. Cilliers attended the European Conference of Psychopharmacology in Istanbul

Image Credit: © D.Godliman 

“I have attended the European College of Neuropsychopharmachology (ECNP) congress for the past few years.
Each year it is in a different city. In 2009, from 12 – 16 September, I attended the 22nd ECNP Congress in Istanbul, Turkey.  Istanbul is a fascinating city with multiple historical, cultural and socio-economic layers.  My wife and one (post-graduate) son accompanied me.

I learnt a lot. I'd like to mention a few important lectures I attended:

  • There was a debate about the different treatment algorhythms for resistant depression,
  • Novel  perspectives in the treatment of drug  dependence.
  • Treatment guidelines for Bipolar Disorder.
  • Brain mechanisms in psychotherapy.
  • Long-term effective treatment in schizophrenia.”


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